March 2024 Meeting: Restoring Vintage Radios

At our March 2024 meeting, SPARC welcomed Joe and Sandra Fekete to discuss vintage and antique radio restoration. Joe Fekete is an active member of SCARS, the Southern California Antique Radio Society. He was a ham in 1970s and has served as an FCC liaison. He currently lives in Monrovia with his wife Sandra who is a self-described “conehead,” which in the restoration hobby means someone who specializes in repairing speakers.

Sandra and Joe Fekete

Joe and Sandra demonstrated their techniques for restoring old radios to appear “right off the assembly line.” For example, when stuffing capacitors they recreate vintage labels to preserve technical information and capture the look of the original components.

Vintage capacitor labels ready to be scanned and reprinted

The meticulous couple spent three years restoring the radio of a 1957 Corvette on behalf of Cerritos collector Kent Browning.

Sandra holds the metal frame of a classic Corvette speaker.

Here are a few resources the Feketes mentioned for anyone interested in attempting a restoration:

If you’re interested in acquiring a vintage radio, SCARS will hold a swap meet in Burbank on June 15.

Several SPARC members have extensive experience with vintage ham equipment. Bob WB6YJJ brought in two beautiful vintage radios and an oscilloscope, seen below.

A nonworking 1930s commercial radio from the Feketes (top left) and three working pieces of equipment from Bob WB6YJJ

The gleaming transmitter on the right is a working Johnson “Viking Valiant” from the late 1950s. Rick KI6ZKM brought a Hallicrafters rig that he plans to repair.

Interior view of a Hallicrafters rig owned by Rick KI6ZKM

Tony K6TTP shared several tips for anyone embarking on a restoration:

  • Document everything with photos.
  • Locate a trustworthy schematic for your rig and compare it to the physical equipment.
  • Replace all the capacitors. If a vintage capacitor hasn’t failed, it will. 

Tony recommends Old Radio Parts for obtaining replacement components and the website for its many kits and guides. Tony is restoring a Hallicrafters SX-140 with help from HiFiAudio’s guide.

Mark WB6CIA suggested building a collection of vintage tube substitution books. He also consults SAMS Photofact manuals which can be ordered online or found in vintage bookstores.

SPARC thanks the Feketes for a fascinating presentation, and thanks all the members who shared their equipment and wisdom.